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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Review: Knappogue Castle 12 Year

By Doug Dorda

This pot-stilled single malt whiskey has not only captured my imagination, it has quickly become one of my favorite Irish offerings. The liquor stands boldly alongside its more popular cousins—Scotch and Bourbon—delivering a flavor profile that is wholly unique to the three.

Knappogue Castle 12 Year ($32.42/750ml) is aged in American Bourbon barrels, similar to Scotch, and as such it is colored a captivating pale gold. It is important to note that this color is solely derived from the Bourbon cask aging. The aromatic bouquet of the aqua vitae (water of life) is a complex symphony of cinnamon, sweet malts, biscuit, citrus fruits, and the presence of ethanol. The aroma sets the stage for a deeply complex drink that is smooth, even haunting on the palate. In short, this whiskey does not disappoint.

In a continuing effort to educate myself fully on the potential tastes of all things fermented, I took my first sip unencumbered by water or ice. Cinnamon and nutmeg steal the show at the front end of the palate, but they quickly strike a balance with warm vanilla and toffee notes that are no doubt a contribution from the char inside the Bourbon barrels. Caramel, biscuit, and roasted notes coalesce mid palate to offer a sensation of sweet milk chocolate that may also be likened to a roasted marshmallow. It is important to note that throughout the palate the whiskey lays like a pure silk; it can be confused with a lightly diluted honey due to the way its slowly lingers on corners of the tongue.

When finally diluted with water, the fruit notes dominate the nose, and all or most of the ethanol dies off. Certain flavors in the whiskey will then be heightened or subdued depending on your rate of dilution. However, all the while, the Knappogue Castle 12 Year will remain smooth and warm upon the palate—the whiskey equivalent to a hot cocoa after a day of being in the snow.

Knappogue Castle has a history that some readers may find intriguing. If you have time for quick tale, as well as a love and respect for restoration projects, I suggest you spend some time here:

Knappoge Castle 12 Year ($32.42/750ml) is available now at Siciliano's.

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